Fourteen Ways to Improve the Experience of Being Called for Jury Duty in Baltimore City

I was called to report to jury duty yesterday, though I didn’t land on a jury. (That was a random result based on my number; I didn’t raise any barriers to serving). But I did produce this list of ways that they could improve the experience of prospective jurors.

(As jurors, we don’t know if we’re giving up a day, a week, or months, so it’s naturally already a bit of a stressful time.)

  1. On the Summons, integrate the Juror Entrance section, with the “Report to 100 N. Calvert Street” section. If we show up at 100 N. Calvert St. we end up a block and a hill away.
  2. Direct jurors where to go after they make it through security.
    There was no direction at all. I stood on a line for several minutes (as did most people) which turned out to be for people who didn’t bring their summons. The jury room I was supposed to be at was on the opposite side of a square hall. Someone directed me to a different room, after which I was finally directed to the right room. (For someone having a high-pain day, this was all a notable discomfort. But I also met an able-bodied engineer who complained about the same direction-deficit six hours later, when I didn’t even prompt on that subject. It was notable.)
  3. Provide a map on the website showing where to enter, where the relevant rooms are, and where to eat. Alternatively (or also), post humans to direct people.
  4. At check-in and payment, label the three stations. Without labels, I assumed that the left-most station was Station #1. So, I waited there, until directed to Station #1 on the right side of the room. When I commented about how helpful it would be if the stations were labeled, the staff member replied that he thought they were labeled. He mentioned this to the gal at Station #3, who was able to produce a small sign (just for her station).
  5. When someone has a cart on wheels, by default, let them use the wheelchair-accessible entrance. The steps are hard to climb with a rolling cart. (I wouldn’t have brought my computer if I had known there was no WiFi.)
  6. Modify the night-before tape recording and website to let jurors know that there is no WiFi available.
  7. Modify the summons to let jurors know that there is no WiFi available, so that we might have time to buy a mobile hotspot. (They once offered Wifi, but disabled it recently.)
  8. On code red heat warning days, get rid of the no-shorts rule. Modify the night-before recording and the website accordingly. And once shorts are okay, get rid of the but-shorts-must-come-to-the-knees-or-below rule. (Yesterday they announced a special heat advisory “shorts-allowed-but-must-come-to-the-knee” exception. The recording — that we were required to call the night before — had declared that no shorts were allowed.)
  9. When jurors are being empanelled (or excluded), air condition the room so that people don’t overheat.
  10. Recushion the jury seats. I landed in the jury seats during the judge’s exclusion questions. My seat was quite uncomfortable. (Eventually they brought in more chairs, and I got a comfy seat for the rest of the process). Based on the discomfort of those juror’s seats, alone, I was glad I wasn’t selected.
  11. If the jury is selected, and the rest of us are dismissed at 12:15 pm, don’t tell us to report back to the jury waiting room. Let us go to lunch. We crossed the street, walked back up the hill (even in the shade it was hot), climbed the steps, waited on a security line, checked through security, and THEN we were told to go to lunch. So, back down the steps, and down the hill to lunch, hot and hungry.
  12. Fix the monitor in the Quiet Room (used to announce juror numbers). The staff members who came in to announce the number ranges (for check-in and reporting) did a good job of informing us, but my guess is they were pulled away from other things.
  13. Let jurors know that a movie will be shown. I came armed to do work (expecting an internet connection), and ended up twiddling my thumbs, essentially, in the quiet room. Would’ve liked to have known that a movie was being shown in the other room.
  14. In our gun-soaked world, choose a movie for the (non-quiet) jury waiting room that doesn’t include massive gunfire. Even though it was a fantasy movie (Avatar) there were still a slew of people and creatures getting shot at, blown up, pierced, burned, and killed on screen. Given how many people pass through that jury waiting room room, my guess is that some have lost loved ones to gunfire, and others have been shot at themselves. In one part of the day, I was looking at a defendant in an alleged illegal gun possession case, and in another part of the day, big guns were offered as entertainment.

If anyone from the Circuit Court should see this, I’ll be interested to know if any of these suggestions might be adopted.